Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Posts Tagged ‘Factory occupations

Vestas occupation ends

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The occupation of the Vestas factory ended at noon today following the serving of an eviction notice yesterday on the six remaining workers inside the factory.

The campaign to Save Vestas goes on.

Aluta continua. Venceremos!

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Written by Calvin

07/08/2009 at 12:57 pm

Police break up Thomas Cook sit-in

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LabourStart is reporting this morning that, at 5am, police broke into the Thomas Cook shop in Dublin where 40 workers have been staging a peaceful sit-in following the company’s decision to close its three retail outlets in Dublin (including a Direct Holidays outlet), announced with immediate effect last Friday, with the loss of 77 jobs (you can read the facts behind the evolution of the dispute, and Thomas Cook’s disgraceful, precipitate actions in The Irish Times here). The 28 workers and union officials present in the shop at the time have been forcibly removed in pursuit of a court order obtained yesterday ordering the end of the four-day action by 7pm last night and the appearance of the staff in court at 2pm today.

RTE reports that one of the 28 involved, a woman eight and a half months pregnant, has now gone into labour and has been taken to hospital.

The workers were taking action over the closure of the stores and the redundancy package offered by the company. Thomas Cook branch manager Wendy Alton told a radio station that, ‘As far as we’re concerned, whatever happens in court we’ve won our battle. It was a peaceful protest, they had to physically remove us. We’ve made our stance and the people of Ireland and Dublin are 110 percent behind us.’ The workers engaged in the sit-in had said that they had no desire to engage in confrontation with the law, but felt they had no choice but to continue their peaceful and orderly protest until Thomas Cook agreed to meaningful negotiations.

The Thomas Cook sit-in is a formal union protest being undertaken by the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association. Gerry Doherty, General Secretary of the TSSA, said on Sunday that, unless the company was prepared to come to an agreement with the union, he would ask the Irish TUC to organise a boycott of Thomas Cook holidays by the 800,000 members of its affiliated unions.

We unreservedly condemn the actions of those involved in securing an end to the occupation in this way.

Written by Calvin

04/08/2009 at 9:58 am

Sacked by pizza delivery

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Eleven workers peacefully occupying the Vestas Windsystems wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight in protest at the closure of the plant and the loss of 625 jobs have been sacked by pizza delivery for taking part in industrial action. The sackings – which the workers have lodged appeals against – mean that they will not qualify for redundancy pay.

The pizza was part of a regular food delivery being sent into the workers, who are occupying one floor of the building, by the management of the plant after the decision to put up a chain link fence up to prevent other workers from throwing food up to the workers staging the occupation. It also follows direct discussions between the workers involved and a management representative on Thursday last week – without which the letters could not have been delivered – and when the workers were told of the company’s course of action. The company was in court today to seek to secure a possession order on the factory which will allow it to send bailiffs in to remove the occupying workers. The workers have said that they will leave peacefully if that occurs – but the court’s decision to refuse the possession order on the grounds that the case had not been prepared correctly, with a further hearing now scheduled for next Tuesday, 4 August, is a welcome stay of execution (as well as an interesting demonstration of judicial independence, with the judge being highly critical of the paperwork).

The decision to close the factory was made back in April on the grounds of lack of orders, since which time the company has been engaged in a consultation exercise. Vestas has not commented on the protest but has released a letter justifying its actions.

This is an eye-catching protest, for a number of reasons:

1. The workers involved appear not to be union members, although RMT has provided support and practical assistance. There are a number of points which could be made here about union organising initiatives and the benefits of being in a trade union in this situation, as Johanna Baxter does elsewhere.

2. There is very little tradition of such direct action in the UK, even amongst unionised workers, certainly in contrast to France, where direct action including ‘boss kidnappings’ feature more strongly, as Adrian Askew, General Secretary of Connect, pointed out recently. Back in the 1970s, when union militancy was more widespread, factory sit-ins were more common and there were some legendary examples (UCS) but, apart from the Caterpillar workers’ production of the pink Caterpillar in 1987, more recently they have been almost non-existent. As Gregor Gall argues, perhaps there should be more.

3. Green power ought, in the context most recently of the government’s low carbon plan amidst earlier initiatives on renewable energy, to be a growth area. The plan indicates that 40% of the UK’s energy in the future will come from low carbon sources, including renewables, and joined-up thinking would question the closure of a wind turbine plant in this context at a time when manufacturing jobs are being lost to the recession. Questions do therefore need to be asked as to why Vestas is now closing its wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight. The electoral change in local councils in England and Wales in May may, if Emma Burnell is right about the political divide in terms of approval of wind farm projects, provide some clues as to Vestas’s decision – at least in the UK (the ‘lack of local political action’ was referred to by Vesta directly). The plant supplies products not just for the UK but for the whole of northern Europe – it is a lack of orders right across this part of the continent that has led to the decision to close the plant. And that’s puzzling.

4. The government this week provided £6m in cash to Vestas in support of a new R&D facility on the Isle of Wight – which will support some additional jobs – but this is a separate issue from the closure of the manufacturing plant (and, it would seem, provided to a different Vestas company). R&D is required to deal with some of the typical objections to wind farms – though perhaps not the one that inspired Chris Madden’s very funny cartoon. So, this is good news – albeit with an orientation to the future rather than to the present.

In the meantime, to return to the present, the campaign to Save Vestas goes on, with workers calling on the company in the light of the court’s decision to refuse the possession order now to negotiate with them. That clearly should happen but, in the meantime, the political fight looks as though it needs to be taken to Europe as well as to Westminster.

Written by Calvin

29/07/2009 at 2:01 pm